To combat vandalism, ban election signs on public property

Sign of the times

My sign was cut in half. My sign was stolen. My sign was graffitied.

Every single election, whether it be federal, provincial or municipal we hear the same complaints from candidates. It’s almost a race to see whose sign gets defaced first, because each media outlet will write one story on it — so if you’re first, you get the article and can play the victim, get the free coverage, and then move on.

As much as we can say it’s illegal to damage signs, at the end of the day with the number of signs scattered across the city and the heightened political animosity we see in elections, we can’t monitor the signs to arrest people for defacing and damaging them.

The City of Kelowna, like many Canadian cities, allows political signs on public property and on private property.

The one thing you’ll learn if you ever work on a local political campaign is the mantra that “signs don’t vote, people do”. Nevertheless, you’ll then be told there’s a sign team of 10 people who will go out every day putting up and repairing those same signs that “don’t vote”. You then end up with a streetscape littered with signs of the various party colours, which are simply an eyesore.

But I will admit that I do like signs sometimes. They do help you memorize the candidates in whatever election it may be. This isn’t as big of a deal in our federal and provincial campaigns when there’s usually no more than four or five people on the ballot. However when it comes to local municipal or school board elections - that ballot can have forty people on it.

So I’ll admit that having the signs placed around town does help you memorize some of the candidates, and may remind you to go home and google them. They can also make you think that certain candidates have large community support, whether not that’s actually true or not.

Okay, so signs are an eyesore, they get damaged, but they are kind of useful in a way. There must be a better way right?

Well, there is. Some municipalities in Canada only allow political advertising signs on private property.

In this case, you can’t put up your signs on public property, but if you can convince the family down the street from you that you’re the best candidate and that they should put a sign with your name on it in their front yard - go for it.

If we only allow signs on private property, when you see the signs around town it will actually show support. It will also drastically reduce the number of signs we see, reduce the number of environmentally unsustainable signs that get made, and likely lower the amount of sign vandalism since private property is better watched than public.

Many candidates would likely support this change since it frees up campaign money and volunteer time. But until signs are actually banned on public property, they’ll keep putting them up, because even if a candidate opposes them, they don’t want the only signs on the street to be their opponents’.

Let’s ban signs on public property, and make our city a little bit prettier and a little bit more environmentally-friendly come the next election season.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Wilson on Water Street articles

About the Author

Adam Wilson is from Kelowna and has an educational background in urban planning, where he published his research on the politicization of cycling infrastructure in the Journal of Transportation Geography. 

Adam was named as one of Kelowna’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2017 for both his research into cycling infrastructure and a number of political interviews he had done with Macleans, the National Post and CBC News. 

He previously worked as an urban planner in Toronto where he focused on provincial legislation and municipal approval processes.

Most recently, Adam worked for Ontario’s Ministery of Municipal Affairs and Housing, where he held various positions, including as the minister’s executive director of policy and strategic planning, and the Minister’s director of communications. 

Adam now lives in Kelowna with his partner and works in the health care sector, while running his own consultancy that provides strategic advice on local municipal issues.

Email Adam at: [email protected]

His website is adamwilson.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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